Some called for ale, and some for porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes; so the hobbit was kept very busy for a while.
A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came - a loud knock.
~ JRR Tolkein, The Hobbit.
I don't know what it is about this year but it seems like too many amazing people that I know are going through heart-breakingly horrendous times. Just want you to know, you're constantly in my thoughts and prayers and you will always be welcome in my wee hobbit hole for a big jug of coffee and a round of buttered scones.
I guess if I'm gonna be offering scones, I better make sure I can whip up a decent enough batch! While I can't say I've had a heck of a lot of experience making scones, I do have plenty of experience eating them.
For me, the best scones are fluffy and tender, still warm from the oven, with a big dollop of whipped cream and raspberry jam, served with a strong cup of tea. Devonshire tea at it's best.
However, unbeknownst to me, there appears to be a great debate as to what the 'proper' way of assembling ones scone is. Move over chicken vs egg dilemma, in the world of scones, the million dollar question is: cream first or jam?
According to those far more proper than I, the Devon way of preparing the scone is to butter the scone, then add cream, and then the jam. However the way to do it in the rival county of Cornwall, is to put the jam on before the cream.
Not being the most proper person in the world, I had no idea there was a proper way of having a scone though it looks like I've inadvertently ended up going the Cornish jam-first method. Whichever way you like to assemble your scone, it really makes little difference 'cause after all once you eat it, it's scone.
This particular scone baking exercise arose out of necessity rather than any sort of plan. C and I were house sitting my mum's place and I really wanted to treat C with a special breakfast to celebrate him getting a job in Wellington (woop!) but the only things in the pantry was some currants, sugar, flour, a little milk and butter and a random packet of Kapiti mascarpone cheese.
Thanks to google, I found this scone recipe which ticked all the boxes and seemed to have good reviews. So I was all set to make our Devonshire tea brekkie, when I find there was also no jam in the house! Luckily there were some mixed berries in the freezer...just enough to make a batch of Quick Berry Jam using the Masterchef Australia recipe as a starting point.
The scone itself was good. Not amazingly light and fluffy as my dream scones, but definitely tasty and not dense and rock-like as some recipes end up. So not a bad recipe but not quite The Ultimate Scone Recipe.
The berry jam was not the best batch of jam I've ever made. I think if I had had raspberries instead of mixed berries it would have turned out way better. It just lacked that tartness to even out the sugary sweetness. Will definitely give this recipe another go though, it was pretty quick and uses stuff you normally have in the pantry, so great if you're in a jam for the lack of jam.
I have to admit though, the true star of this ensemble was nothing I made, but the mascarpone cheese. A big kahuna dollop of that amazing creamy gorgeousness on a warm fluffy scone will, at least for that moment, go a long way to helping you feel like every little thing 'scone be alright.
adapted from this recipe.
Makes 8 scones, serves 2
1 3/4 cup self raising flour
1 Tablespoon caster sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
30 g butter, chilled, chopped into little bits
3/4 cup milk
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
~ 250g mascarpone cheese to serve
1. Firstly, make the jam (recipe below) and allow to cool while you bake the scones. Mix the milk with the lemon juice and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2.Preheat the oven to 220oC and line a cookie tray with baking paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the self raising flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt to get rid of lumps. Add the butter and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add currants and mix through.
4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the milk/lemon mixture and stir quickly with a butter knife until only just mixed together.
5. Lightly flour a clean bench and tip out your dough. Very lightly knead the dough to bring together the press out to around 1 inch thick. Using a floured 5cm round cookie cutter (or a cleaned can with both sides cut off) cut out discs of dough and place on the cookie sheet. Put the scones on the tray side by side so they are touching (I forgot to do this so this is probably why my scones are on the flat side).
6. Bake at 220oC for 15 minutes, until golden on top and sound hollow when you tap them. Serve right away: they are best warm, or you can reheat the scones in the microwave for around 40 seconds per scone. Scones are best eaten on the day they are made.
Quick Berry Jam
adapted from Julia's Masterchef Australia recipe
120g mixed frozen berries
100g white sugar
juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp gelatine powder
1 Tablespoon cold water
1. In a small saucepan, heat frozen berries, sugar and lemon juice over medium-high heat. Simmer for a 10 - 15 minutes until thickened, take off the heat. Mix gelatine with 1 Tablespoon cold water. Add the gelatin mixture into the berries, then transfer to a bowl to cool. The jam should set on cooling.